In the early stages of this Republican primary cycle, it seemed like we were watching an endless season of the reality television series Survivor. Each week (literally) we would wait to see which contestant would temporarily and surprisingly surge into frontrunner status, and which contestant would be "voted off the island" and have to pack it up and go home. So Survivor seemed like a pretty apt analogy.
But recently things have gotten so vicious that three of the remaining Republican presidential candidates appear to be actually trying to kill each other (politically speaking, of course). In their selfish quest to become the Republican nominee, each of the remaining contenders has left the long-standing Eleventh Commandment popularized by Ronald Reagan in the dust: "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican".
It's not enough anymore to just wound the other guy; he has to be taken out without any chance of survival or resurgence. It's become a knock down, drag out fight-to-the-death; a take-no-prisoners, throw-caution-to-the-wind, never-mind-the consequences, winner-takes-all with prejudice, highly toxic approach to presidential campaigning with an unprecedented level of vitriol.
Having just read the first two Hunger Games books at the prodding of my teenage daughter on our spring break vacation (and just in time for release of the movie), I'm now thinking The Hunger Games seems a much more apt comparison for what the 2012 Republican primary has now devolved into.
You have a "Career" contestant/"tribute" in Mitt Romney, someone who has been groomed for the Games his entire life, having received the best training possible with all of the money and resources available to someone of his privileged stature. And based upon tradition and history, this Career contestant would appear to be in the strongest position by far to emerge victorious in the Games. Romney's main challenger, Santorum, however, is a scrappy upstart from a poor coal mining community who does not have the same pre-ordained privilege, training and money in his background, but seems to appeal to the masses with his authenticity (but that's where the comparison to the main character, Katniss, ends). And lastly, you have Gingrich who is so blinded by ego that he is willing to say anything rather than see either of the other two candidates succeed. His philosophy seems to be "if I can't have it, I'll make sure no one else can."
Things have escalated into the red zone on such an extreme, personal level that it is very difficult to see how these candidates will be able to unite and work together down the road for success in the general election. Too much dirty laundry continues to be aired in public on an ongoing basis, and the more people see and hear it, the less attractive each of these candidates becomes and the more these negative images are reinforced.
The delegate numbers seem to support an eventual Romney victory. The question is, at what cost will this eventual win by Romney have been attained? What will be the lasting damage to his candidacy in the general election and to the Republican Party itself going forward? As in the Hunger Games, I would suggest than it may be the existing system and structure supporting and allowing the absurd deadly games to continue which ultimately will be significantly undermined.
And that may actually end up being a good thing for both parties, and democracy in general. For the Democrats, in the short run it may help ensure a President Obama re-election. For the Republicans, it will hopefully force a seriously needed post-election reboot of the Republican party's platforms, principles and overall approach to campaigning and governing in a 21st Century multi-cultural, evaporating middle class American society.
But for now, sit back and vicariously enjoy the never-ending daily mass entertainment and political bloodshed that is the 2012 Republican Hunger Games.
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